Wednesday Cubs/MLB Headlines: Financial Edition

I have never professed to be an expert in baseball financial matters. But there is a clue in Jeff Passan's arbitration roundup at Yahoo that may give some insight into why the Cubs didn't offer arbitration to Kerry Wood (or, for that matter, to any of their other compensation-eligible free agents):

OK, so Arizona doesn’t want to get stuck with Adam Dunn next season at the $15 million or so he’d get through arbitration. Fine. It’s a short-sighted maneuver not to offer arbitration – he’s bound to get a multi-year deal somewhere – but with the Diamondbacks offering arbitration to Orlando Hudson, Juan Cruz and Brandon Lyon, one scouting director wondered whether it was to avoid a glut of draft choices and the signing bonuses that accompany them.

While two sources dismissed the idea, one pointed out that with Dunn, Hudson and Cruz all Type A players likely to sign elsewhere, it would have left the Diamondbacks with seven high picks, including their own first-rounder, and eight if Lyon doesn’t accept arbitration. According to Baseball America, Arizona spent only $4.49 million on its draft choices last season, the seventh-lowest number in the game.

Now, you'll remember that the Cubs were fined $500,000 last summer for some shenanigans regarding signing certain players above slot recommendations and not reporting those signings on a timely basis. Based on that, perhaps the paradoxical idea that the Cubs wouldn't want the extra draft picks because of the extra money they might cost actually makes some sense. On the other hand, none of this means that the Cubs and Kerry Wood might not still come to agreement on a one year-deal, especially since in the present market, that multi-year contract Jim Hendry told Wood to go out and get might not exist.

We are living in a very different economy, as Passan points out:

Now, though, with advertising reps reporting back to their bosses that sales are hard to come by and teams cringing at the notion of fans’ disposable income shriveling like a raisin, arbitration is a risk. In the process, the team and player either come to an agreed-upon salary – usually more than the previous season – or each side picks a number and allows an impartial arbitrator to choose the player’s salary.

So the idea that the Cubs may want to pare any further payroll increases down -- including the possibility that Jake Peavy's deal isn't affordable financially, never mind the players that might have to be given up -- has less to do with who becomes the new owner of the team and more to do with the shrinking number of advertising dollars that may be coming in for the 2009 season. It's the first week of December, the time when season ticket invoices usually arrive for those of us who have season tickets. We've seen nothing yet, nor any hint (beyond an offhand comment from Jim Hendry on the Score last week that some prices may go up while most stay the same) of what ticket prices will be in 2009.

This isn't just a Cub issue, either. Here's a list of all the free agents this offseason. Only three of them have signed so far: Ryan Dempster re-upped with the Cubs for about market rate; Doug Brocail stayed with his old team, the Astros, also for a reasonable deal; and Jeremy Affeldt, the only one so far to change teams, signed with the Giants for a fairly "modest" $8 million for two years. And of 60 Type A or B free agents, fewer than half -- only 24 -- were offered arbitration. We may all have to adjust our thinking about what the Cubs -- or ANY team -- can and will afford to acquire, either by trade or free agency, this offseason. As Passan points out:

[Bobby] Abreu, for example, made $16 million last season. Though his numbers have declined, he would stand to make about $17 million through arbitration. And while that was a fair amount in the past, even New York couldn’t stomach it this year.

The Yankees scrimping. This really is a recession.

Finally, the Biz of Baseball site posted yesterday the breakdown of postseason shares by team. Here's what the Cubs got and handed out:

Chicago Cubs (Share of Players’ Pool: $1,534,779.83; value of each full share: $25,032.89) – The Cubs awarded 50 full shares, 11.03 partial shares and five cash awards.

The shares are usually voted on by the players themselves. I'm guessing the partial shares went to players like Matt Murton and Sean Gallagher who were traded, or guys like Kevin Hart and Neal Cotts, who spent part of the year in the minors.

Let's hope they have larger shares -- like the $351.504.48 per full share that the champion Phillies gave out -- to distribute in 2009.

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